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Rank & File

November 8, 2013

Many political pundits are telling the public Terry McAuliffe’s win in Virginia’s gubernatorial race is a microcosm of the midterm elections in 2014. McAuliffe was projected to the race by an average of 6.7 percent according to realclearpolitics.com. McAuliffe won by only 2.4 percent and less than 50 percent of the majority vote went to him. So, what do the results tell us about the state of politics going into 2014?

First, polling is by and large not as accurate as we would like to believe. The press loves to rant about the horse race and show the polling results as they come in before the election. In this race, McAuliffe was shown to be ahead since mid-July. At times he was ahead by more than 15 percent to 17 percent. At the end, two polls showed McAuliffe ahead by six or seven percent. It should also be noted that both of the polls showed an undecided element of three to six percent. In these late polls, Ken Cuccinelli (R), McAuliffe’s opponent, was projected lower than the vote he actually received.

Second, the government shutdown effect was significant but not determining. During the time of the shutdown, Cuccinelli was lagging in the polls by double digits. That slump only lasted for two weeks. After that point, the race began to tighten again. Hypothetically, if the shutdown wouldn’t have produced a negative effect that had to be overcome, then Cuccinelli would have been in a better position to win. This is an important lesson for Republicans to learn heading into midterm elections.

Libertarian candidates will hurt Republican candidates at the polls. This is nothing new but has been part of the Democrat strategy this time around. This may be a lesson that is employed nationwide in 2014. Robert Sarvis took 6.6 percent of the vote, the most by a third party candidate in Virginia’s recent history. Conservative news sites reported on Election Day that Sarvis was being funded by Joe Liemandt from Texas, a top Obama fundraiser and donor. The strategy would have been for Sarvis to pull economically conservative republicans who are socially liberal out of Cuccinelli’s voting bloc. It seemed to work as Sarvis did well in the suburbs.

Moving into the 2014 midterms it still appears that Virginia is a swing state. Media is reporting how the GOP must change to win. Based on this election, they need to avoid making mistakes which hurt them nationally (the shutdown) and locally (corruption changes). Cuccinelli was drastically outspent, was maligned by the media and had to deal with a conservative third party candidate. Yet, he still almost won. If I was a Democrat strategist, I would hope the Affordable Care Act starts to produce, hope Republicans shut down the government again and start finding Libertarians to run for vulnerable Senate seats in order to block GOP candidates.

Elisha French
Political Editor

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